Spring TGS 2001WTA Tour Tennis hands-on

We play some tennis with the women of the WTA tour in Konami's new PlayStation 2 game.

TOKYO - Konami had a playable version of its latest PlayStation 2 sports game, WTA Tour Tennis, at its booth at the Tokyo Game Show 2001 Spring. As the title of the game suggests, WTA Tour Tennis is a fully licensed tennis game based on the women's professional tennis tour. As such, virtual replicas of players such as Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport, and Serena Williams are in the game--there were twelve playable pros in the demo version at TGS. The characters are nicely modeled and are recognizable by their clothing and physical features for the most part, but the facial textures aren't very convincing. Only a couple of pros were easily recognizable by facial features alone. The presentation, which is of particular importance in sports games, is also limited. The match begins with a quick pan of the court and the crowd and ends with a brief handshake between the players. In between, the on-court action is hardly accentuated by such elements as the conveying of player emotion through peripheral animation routines, and other ambient elements that could have made the game look and feel a lot more realistic.

On the court, WTA Tour Tennis moves at a rather brisk pace. In the TGS demo we played, the computer AI was highly advanced and they hardly ever made any glaring mistakes. This made it difficult to work the computer player to one side and hit a cross-court winner, which is essentially the primary strategy used in most tennis games. One aspect that WTA Tennis does share with other games in the genre is the simple control scheme. Two face buttons execute the lob and the ground-stroke respectively, while the analog stick moves the player herself. It is generally easy to work the ball around using the two face buttons, but the analog control isn't as responsive as it should be. For example, several times following a serve we were unable to move our player fast enough in order to react to the return shot. While our pro was finishing up the serve animation the computer player had already returned the ball, and it became almost impossible to reach return shots near the sidelines.

WTA Tour Tennis wasn't quite as impressive as some other tennis games on the market, but hopefully Konami will rectify some of the animation issues and pump up the visuals before the game is finally released on the PlayStation 2.

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